05 July 2009

acknowledging what goes into my dinner (slaughtering chickens)

Today my roommate, a friend, and I went to out friend Maria's to help her slaughter, pluck and clean some of the 75 chickens that she has been raising for her wedding dinner.

Their final day was spent much as any other. They've been in a tractor with a larger fenced in area so that they're always moving around the property, eating grubs, grass and kicking up soil.

Here two of us are retrieving some chickens.

And I've got one. They relax once you hold them close to your body. The chickens were far from the actual slaughter area, so they were oblivious to their fate.

And here's the first step. The highway cones allow for the chicken to be held upside-down for proper exsanguination.

It also holds them them firmly and minimizes post-mortem spasms.

Here's said chicken going into the cone.

A quick slice to the artery just under the jaw starts the blood flowing.

And a quick piercing to the brain cuts consciousness. The heart still pumps for a bit, relieving the bird of most of its blood. Once that's done a few muscle spasms — which are alarming at first — happen.

And then it's silent. The blood stops flowing.

And a knife gets re-sharped.

The bird gets scalded at 140ºF for 50-60 seconds.

That makes plucking (we did this by hand) much easier.

And soon we start to see the familiar contours of a roaster.

The head is removed. Finding a vertebra comes easier as this goes. I'd try to pop a vertebra out of line and cut the flesh/tendons around.

A few slices around the esophagus and trachea free it to be tugged out.

And then the backside of the chicken is opened.

The viscera are then removed. We found this to happen the most easily if the vent were left intact and removed with the rest. This way the intestines remained intact. We also gained agility and were able to preserve the livers without damaging/contaminating them. My boss, who was also there to help, kept these.

I kept the legs. And necks.

A cleaned, washed and ready-for-the-caterer bird.

On ice. Maria wrapped them to go straight to the freezer.

I was ready and willing to stop eating meat if I found this too terrible to do. I was a vegetarian for a long time and as I've incorporated meat back into my diet I've been telling myself that this was important. And I feel that in the end I can live with the violence of slaughtering animals in a way that isn't cruel, that's on a reasonable scale and that supported the animal's well-being during its life. These chickens grazed on fresh pasture and were rotated to new grass every day or two. They ate grubs and grass and mostly organic feed. They had lots of sun (when it wasn't raining of course). And in the end, the more time I spend with chickens, the more I feel that this is okay. This was a powerful and very positive experience.

Thanks to Jaime for the photos.

1 comment:

  1. Adam and I have been talking about trying to raise some chickens. It would be in a few years, and on a much smaller scale. When it happens, we're calling you for advice/contact info of knowledgeable people.